Nicole Piela, PT, DPT teaching Stockton PT students
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, commonly known as shin splints, is the inflammation of the muscles, tendons and tissues that surround the tibia. It is very common in runners, dancers and those that participate in high impact activities
Shin Splints can be caused by repetitive motion, flat feet and weakness of muscles in the core, hips or ankles. A common sign of shin splints is pain on the inside of the tibia, either when it is pressed on or during the activity.
“It is really important that people listen to their bodies and stop doing the activity they are doing if they are experiencing pain,” said Nicole Piela, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Bacharach’s Mays Landing campus. “Rest and ice will be their best friend, at first, and if they realize that they aren’t seeing improvement they can go to a physical therapist to address the issue.”
Physical therapists treat shin splints by assessing the pain and figuring out what causes it. They conduct an analysis of the patient’s gait, ankle flexibility including calf tightness and strength of the patient’s lower extremities and core. Treatment plans are individual to each patient, but usually include stretching and strengthening exercises, manual therapy such as mobilizations and kinesiotape.
“Once the warm weather rolls around we tend to see an increase in shin splint patients—especially in younger adults because they are the ones constantly running or doing CrossFit activities,” said Nicole. “People tend to jump back into their activities without proper stretching or footwear.”
If shin splints are ignored and repetitive activities are not stopped they can turn into stress fractures of the tibia, tendonitis and, in severe cases, chronic exertional compartment syndrome, which occurs when pressure builds up in the muscles. If the pain associated with shin splints persists, a physical therapist should be consulted.
“Self-diagnosis is becoming very popular and because of direct access, physical therapists can be the first line of defense for patients experiencing pain,” said Nicole. “With direct access our patients don’t need to see a doctor before being evaluated by a physical therapist. Obtaining access to treatment sooner can help to speed up the whole recovery process.”
Shin splints can be prevented by properly stretching before and after a workout, gradually easing into each workout program, using proper equipment correctly and monitoring how the body is responding to each exercise.